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Review: 2022 Honda Civic 1.5 RS (FE) - Annoyingly Impressive


Review: 2022 Honda Civic 1.5 RS (FE) - Annoyingly Impressive

In Malaysia, C-segment sedans and hatchbacks are a dying breed. For the most part, you can blame/thank the Honda Civic for that - it literally outsold its competitors to the point of giving up, so unwilling keep the fight going that they withdrew those models entirely.

Goodbye Ford Focus. Goodbye Peugeot 308. Goodbye Hyundai Elantra. Goodbye Kia Forte. GG, but you lost. The Civic was just too good and kept on getting better. And for a lot of people, that shift from a formulaic four/five-door box to something actually desirable happened with the 10th-generation, the FC.

2022 Honda Civic FE - Extending The Lead?

This newest version, referred to as the FE in this low-slung sedan body style, is its much-anticipated replacement, and a chance for Honda to smooth out any rougher edges that didn’t quite sit right with the broad audience. An evolutionary step to course-correct its revolutionary predecessor.

2022 Honda Civic 1.5 RS - Review - Malaysia

As such, it does arrive on the scene with a familiar set of basic ingredients. The FE is based upon the same basic architecture, maintains key styling cues, a similar profile, and very similar dimensions. It’s even powered by the same turbocharged engine, which is now made universal across the range.

What hasn’t been maintained is the pricing structure. Wind the clock back about 5 or 6 years, the Civic FC was introduced with a starting price of around RM110k for the entry-level 1.8S and peaked at RM132k for the 1.5 TC-P.

In 2022, this all-new Civic with a turbocharged engine and Honda Sensing active safety as standard now starts at RM131k and can swell to RM151k for this sportier looking RS. That’s quite a jump.

2022 Honda Civic 1.5 RS - Review - Malaysia

Honda Civic RS: Worth It Over The 1.5V?

And I say ‘looking’ because there are no major differences in equipment or hardware between the RS and mid-spec 1.5V, only some exterior and interior cosmetic items, a larger set of wheels and those Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres.

Having learned a considerable amount about exactly who is buying the Civic, Honda Malaysia knows this RS has a much greater appeal to that certain demographic of buyers - perhaps by default. Sure, it’s now bloody expensive, but as a showroom fresh alternative to a used BMW 3 Series (which would’ve gotten them just as much kudos from buddies), the Civic makes more sense.

Plus, it’s got a 5-year, unlimited mileage warranty.

2022 Honda Civic 1.5 RS - Review - Malaysia

2022 Honda Civic RS - Exterior & Design

If the FC looked a bit too Japanese with its signature ‘ketam’ tail lights, harder edges and generally more rigid body lines, the FE remedies that with an overall softer design treatment. The best way to describe it is as more understated.

Some degree of character is lost in that process as well, but to most people, this is a negligible sacrifice to grant it a more European or Continental allure. And it works. This Civic takes the basic shape and basic visual DNA from its predecessor, but is now less divisive visually.

2022 Honda Civic 1.5 RS - Review - Malaysia

While the 1.5E and 1.5V can be a little on the boring side of the spectrum, the RS looks aggressive enough to make a proper statement. The black accents are aplenty, even on the door handles, window surrounds, and boot lid spoiler to match the 18-inch twin-5 spoke wheels in matte black.

Again, aggressive but tasteful, and if selected with the Platinum White Pearl body colour, can just about pull off a Type R vibe.

2022 Honda Civic 1.5 RS - Review - Malaysia

2022 Honda Civic RS - Interior

There’s a much tighter feel in here when it comes to materials and construction, though there is a big and varied mix of textures and surfaces that goes against its general ethos of minimalism (for switchgear). Unsurprisingly, the harder, nastier plastics are positioned below where your hands can easily reach, and the rest of it isn’t exactly especially premium or expensive in feel but is well above average.

The dashboard’s visual centrepiece is that metal garnish that runs a good two-thirds of the car’s interior width, interrupted by the steering column and gauge cluster, but upon closer inspection houses just three air conditioning vents as opposed to something actually capable of ejecting larger volumes of cold/warm air. Think previous-gen Honda HR-V.

2022 Honda Civic 1.5 RS - Review - Malaysia

It’s a nitpick but this example of form over function seems like an aberration from an automaker such as Honda. Happily, the rest of the cabin feels like a good couple of notches above the benchmark set by the Civic FC. In RS trim, the seats are now predominantly upholstered in this micro-suede with bolsters in leather and plenty of red contrast stitching..

At the rear there’s little to argue about with rear legroom comparable to, or even exceeding, some D-segment offerings from other manufacturers.

2022 Honda Civic 1.5 RS - Review - Malaysia

The FE has a 35mm wheelbase advantage over its predecessor but I was hard pressed to notice the difference. A point of concern here is the relatively limited amount of rear headroom, especially if sat fully upright and slump-free.

Taller occupants might be in for a tight squeeze, as will the unlucky one sat in the rear middle. The Civic has a rather pronounced centre tunnel that interferes with the foot wells. This is the kind of comfort concession is to be expected of a sedan with rear-wheel drive but not so much for this front-drive, front-engine Honda.

2022 Honda Civic 1.5 RS - Review - Malaysia

2022 Honda Civic RS - Engine & Powertrain

This Civic RS’ - and every other Civic variant - powertrain is a technically improved version of the the same L15B7 turbocharged 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol that sat under the bonnet in the previous car (and the Accord, and the CR-V….and now the HR-V).

This top-spec Civic, in spite of the ganas looks, is technically the slowest of the bunch with a quoted 8.5 second sprint time to 100km/h. Still respectably in ‘wam hatch’ territory, but a couple of tenths down from the entry-level 1.5E, so don’t be itching for a mini drag race with one from standstill.

It’s still a punchy motor as ever, with a power bump of 9PS to 182PS and 20Nm to 240Nm at their respective peaks.

2022 Honda Civic 1.5 RS - Review - Malaysia

Drive also reaches the fronts via Honda’s CVT that, while quiet and efficient in normal driving, leaves us wanting for more engagement even with the shift paddles. Still, that’s still ample grunt to keep you easily tailgating and quick overtakes, if that’s your thing.

Shifting into drive mode to Sport does leave it hanging on higher revs but that’s where that dreaded CVT whine gets most pronounced, a huge contrast to its otherwise barely perceptible operation. Peak torque is sustained between 1,700rpm until 4,000rpm, so there’s little reason to take it any closer to redline.

To drive, this powertrain package feels identical to the FC at low speed, hard acceleration, and at a high speed cruise with the added power and torque being imperceptible, possibly due to the Civic FE growing in size and weight as mentioned, thereby cancelling out any potential performance improvements.

2022 Honda Civic 1.5 RS - Review - Malaysia

2022 Honda Civic RS - Behind The Wheel

Sat appropriately low and well positioned into the Civic’s driver seat, the RS feels particularly….sporty. The steering wheel has a noticeable BMW characteristic in its size, orientation, and general placement. It feels good and bodes well for the spirited drive to come. Hopefully.

If nothing else, the Civic feels very stable. You’re never in doubt that you’ve got 182PS at your disposal and its 240Nm of torque seems to be continually, and variably, at that gearbox’s call, moving you along with a certain disinterested efficiency.

2022 Honda Civic 1.5 RS - Review - Malaysia

No, this isn’t engaging, but it is impressive. If you were expecting the RS to light your hair on fire (or at least to singe it a little), my question to you is: what have you been smoking? On the kind of typical drive a Civic owner might find themselves on - commuting to and from work, things like that - the car is uncommonly refined, smooth, accommodating, and most of all obedient to your request for pace.

Engagement and a sense of excitement in this situation comes from the tinge more tyre roar from those Michelin PS4s, which is one of the few things that penetrate the otherwise very well insulated cabin. Comfort is fair overall but can be a little busy on rutted surfaces thanks to those stiffer sidewalls.

2022 Honda Civic 1.5 RS - Review - Malaysia

Show it some challenging bends and the Civic is, again, merely obedient. It turns in, stably and sure-footedly, with plenty of grip afforded by the premium French rubber it wears and precise inputs from that steering wheel. You might crack a smile at how well it tracks the corner, which it will do all day, but eventually, realise you’re a little unfulfilled.

This is a car that keeps its limits known only to itself, and you’ll probably need a track to truly discern where its dynamic edges really are. It does drive well, no doubt, but there’s a vagueness, a lack of sparkle and personality here where a car like the Mazda 3 (which I was driving back-to-back), by comparison, always seems eager to communicate what its front axle was up to.

2022 Honda Civic 1.5 RS - Review - Malaysia

You need to trust the Civic more implicitly for the fun factor to set in, chuck it into a corner and stay confident that it will know what to do you with this physics problem set you’ve put at its feet. Hopefully, it will deliver you an entertaining answer. The car really does have some solid handling chops, just hidden behind a black box.

Sport mode is a no for me, best left well alone unless you want to be made very aware you’ve got a CVT.

2022 Honda Civic 1.5 RS - Review - Malaysia

2022 Honda Civic RS - Tech & Safety

You’re really well stocked when it comes to the Civic FE's tech package as Honda Malaysia has outfitted every variant with their Sensing active safety and driver assist suite, and the RS gets all the bell and whistles besides.

Apart from Honda Lanewatch which we wish was fitted on both sides instead of just the passenger door mirror, there are crucially 6 airbags, Autonomous Emergency Braking, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keep Assist, Automatic High Beam, and Adaptive Cruise Control with Low Speed Follow (camera-based). We can only think of Rear Cross Traffic Alert being a noteworthy non-inclusion.

Oh yeah, you only get single-zone climate control. At this price, that's baffling.

2022 Honda Civic 1.5 RS - Review - Malaysia

Up front, that 9-inch infotainment system again uses Android as a software basis with beefy enough silicon to make the modern interface buttery smooth (unlike the FC’s, at times) and the panel itself is crisp and bright. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto can be accessed via USB connection or even wirelessly only through Bluetooth and short-range WiFi, but you might still want to keep that cable handy as there’s no Qi wireless charging pad, which at this price point is - again - pretty baffling.

The tech package is comprehensive and works smoothly enough that you begin to wonder how/if other automakers’ more upmarket offerings can really be of tangible benefit.

2022 Honda Civic 1.5 RS - Review - Malaysia

2022 Honda Civic RS - Conclusion

If you want the full, consummate C-segment sedan experience, you might consider keeping that RM7,000 in your pocket and settling for the Civic 1.5V. However, if you want extra whipped cream on top, a good chunk more kerb appeal and a sporty touch from showroom, the RS could be considered money well spent.

It is a fine-looking thing. The Civic RS is plainly desirable, and coupled with the fact that it’s built upon an extremely competent car beneath its flash exterior makes the proposition even more compelling.

2022 Honda Civic 1.5 RS - Review - Malaysia

Honda really has taken the Civic to new heights here that it’s hard to see any other manufacturer mounting a serious offensive to claim its throne. The Mazda 3 still drives better and has a much more luxuriously appointed cabin than the Civic’s, but that evidently isn’t a deal breaker for most.

For many years now, Honda’s C-segment sedan has been refining the art of being good enough, and the FE in 2022 has now been elevated to “better than good enough” in too many aspects that it’s almost an irresistible package absent any real competition.

Expect, as this writer does, to see many on the road. All owned by people who were already contemplating a used BMW F30.

Good news: The Civic FC was the 'game changer', and this hugely competent FE sequel extends that lead.

Bad news: It's kind of a one-horse race now. Bit boring.

Jim Kem

Jim Kem

Content Producer

There's just something about cars. It's a conveyance, it's a liability, it's a tool; but it can also be a source of joy, pride, inspiration and passion. It's much like clothes versus fashion. And like the latter, the pursuit of perfection never ends.

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